I never really expected to have children – mostly because I was terrified at the prospect of being a father. My friends and family didn’t have any doubts about whether I would be a good father – apparently, I had a monopoly on the doubt market.
My wife was so ready to have children she had what I call baby sense; when we walked down the street she could close her eyes and tell me where each baby was, what it was wearing, and how old they were. When I walked down the street, I was happy if I saw the baby after she told me where it was. Her body was telling her it was time, mine was saying… nothing. When she got pregnant, she was excited and anxious. I was scared and terrified.
I remember during her entire pregnancy of our twins, my wife could feel a strong bond developing with our children, while I spent several months in shock. There was so much going on with her body from the pregnancy, but for me everything was the same. It wasn’t until about six or seven months that I began to feel like I would be ready by the time they were born.
When they were born almost ten weeks early and we had to go home without them, we were both distraught. We visited them in the hospital every day. My wife felt like a part of her was missing, that it was terribly wrong to not have them home. I didn’t feel that sense of loss and I thought it meant there was something wrong with me as a father. Maybe I shouldn’t have kids like I believed all along.
The problem was that I felt no immediate emotional connection with my children when they were born. How can you miss what you never had? But what did that say about me as a father? I knew I loved them and would do anything I could to care for them. But I felt a strange emptiness, a blankness inside. I knew we were related but they didn’t feel like mine. I knew I loved them, but I didn’t feel it. If I was a good father then I would feel an immediate connection with my children, right? This lack of connection meant there was something wrong with me – especially since my wife had such an obviously strong connection with them.
This disconnected feeling got worse because we had decided I would work to make money and she would stay with our babies. While my wife stayed home she developed an even stronger relationship with our children, while I had to go to work every day – spending more time away from them and making it that much harder to develop a connection. As the rest of my family got closer, I felt more and more on the outside and more disconnected from my children and my wife.
I have learned that many fathers also have this experience, but are afraid to talk about it. Not talking about it creates a sense of shame, as if there really is something wrong with a father (or a mother) who doesn’t feel an immediate connection to their baby.
If you experience something similar, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad father or that you don’t or can’t love your child. It means while you probably understand on some level that you love your new baby, you may not yet feel the tremendous sense of love and connection you thought you would or should feel.
Try not to let any day go by without special Daddy Time. You and your partner can set up a specific time everyday that you always have with your child – special Daddy time. And make sure everyone in your families know, so no one intrudes upon that special time